(EXCLUSIVE TO CHALCEDON)
Many Chalcedon readers already visit WorldNetDaily (www.worldnetdaily.com) every day for news and commentary. Founded in 1997, WND attracts nearly 5 million unique visitors every month and is consistently rated among the most popular websites on the Internet. WND founder, publisher, editor, and commentator, Joseph Farah, recently shared his insights with Chalcedon.
“I think it was Pat Buchanan who said culture is the Ho Chi Minh Trail to political power in America,” said Joseph Farah, founder and editor of the Internet giant, WorldNetDaily. “Certainly culture is a back road to political power in America. It’s the culture that sets the agenda for government, political parties, the media, and other institutions.”
Liberal vs. conservative, abortion vs. pro-life, “gay marriage” vs. preservation of the family — and “old media” vs. “new”: for many, these dichotomies define the culture war. But for Farah it’s not that simple. Although often identified as one of the leaders of the “new media” (Internet, talk radio, personal websites, and blogs), Farah spent most of his journalistic career in the “old media” (newspapers, magazines, and television).
“I’ve been in journalism all my adult life,” he said. “I wanted to become a reporter when I saw Woodward and Bernstein [the Washington Post reporters whose stories led to the impeachment and resignation of President Richard Nixon] in the Watergate era, and the impact of what they’d done. And I wasn’t the only one. After Watergate, enrollment in the journalism schools increased dramatically.”
A Worldview Issue
“The mainstream media is not nearly as powerful today as it was ten or twenty years ago, although it still reaches millions of people as their most important source of news. But there’s nothing mainstream about it today. It’s way out of touch with the great majority of the American people.
“It’s a worldview issue, pure and simple. They can’t get away from that.”
Farah looked back on his days as a reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner during the 1980s.
“Of the 200 reporters in our newsroom,” he said, “I was probably the only one who went to church.
“I was already a Christian, but my worldview had not yet caught up to my Christian commitment. It can take a long time to apply the lessons of the Bible to your life, your work, and your community. Those days were the time when I began to do that.
“This institution, the news media, is desperately out of touch with mainstream American politics. If you don’t have a godly worldview, you’ll only see the world through a certain kind of lens. There’s a lot you won’t see.
“In my case, my Christian worldview made me able to see stories that the other reporters couldn’t see. There was some anti-Christian discrimination, but because of my worldview, I was able to advance very quickly in my career. While other reporters were fishing around and coming up with nothing, I was exploding with stories.”
For example, Farah recalled, few reporters saw the potential for controversy when Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ was released in 1988.
“I went to the preview with hundreds of other reviewers,” he said. “Because they didn’t know any Christians, they couldn’t see any possible objections to the film. I found it so upsetting that I almost got physically ill.”
Thanks to his contacts in the Los Angeles Christian community, Farah scooped his colleagues when a protest against the film attracted 25,000 demonstrators.
“The other reporters weren’t listening,” he said, “so the story took them by surprise.”
Conservative — Not!
Most liberals would call WorldNetDaily a conservative or right-wing organ, but Farah rejects the label.
“Describing yourself as a conservative is a trap,” he said. “There’s something hopeless about the conservative movement. It’s an effort to hold turf rather than advance an agenda.
“Look, it’s a fallen world; it’s saturated with sin, and sin means problems. And there’s something very attractive about finding a solution that seems reasonable. Advocating change always beats advocating standing still.
“Any front page of The New York Times presents the reader with a whole series of crises, every day. But it also presents solutions — usually in the form of some new legislation or regulation by the government. It won’t work, but at least it’s an attempt at a solution.”
WorldNetDaily, Farah said, is devoted to finding an alternative to conservatism.
“Better than conservatism is a redirection to a goal-oriented approach — expanding freedom.
“Our country’s founders weren’t conservatives. They were radical visionaries, men who really studied the Scriptures.”
But doesn’t basing public policy on Biblical principles tend toward the creation of a tyrannical theocracy?
“There will never be a legitimate theocracy unless God is sitting on the throne,” Farah said. “The fact is that our Judeo-Christian tradition is the only one in world history that protects the rights of those who aren’t believers.
“Roy Moore [the Alabama Chief Justice who was removed from office for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse] says it best: If we use a wrecking ball on America’s Christian heritage, we destroy the foundation of all those freedoms that the ACLU claims to be defending.”
Rather than promote conservatism, Farah said, WND’s mission is “to serve as a watchdog on the government. Government is always the biggest threat to freedom. So we expose corruption, waste, abuse, and fraud. We’re almost cynical about the government.”
Part of his motivation for founding WND, he said, was a desire to counter left-wing bias in the “mainstream” media.
“Conservatives see liberal bias as a media problem,” Farah said, “but competition is the only solution to that. If you put enough conservatives in the media, then it’ll have a conservative bias. The solution to bias in the media is to create new media institutions.”
WorldNetDaily was originally set up in a rural area in southern Oregon, Farah said, so that its reporters wouldn’t be “seduced” by the Washington, D.C. establishment. “I do have an office in D.C. now, but I don’t accept invitations to parties. I don’t put myself in those situations.
“Good reporters, committed to the idea of keeping a close watch on the government, can overcome their personal bias,” he said.
Despite hate mail, death threats, and occasional invitations to D.C. dinner parties, Joseph Farah and WorldNetDaily continue to chart an independent, Judeo-Christian course in journalism.